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Traveling Spain with VBT

Make your way to Europe and then travel south. Well past Barcelona and below the central Spanish capital of Madrid, as far south as Europe extends, you’ll come upon the sunny, gentle vegas of Andalucía. Host to encierro (Running of the Bulls) and birthplace of flamenco, Andalucía’s myriad cultural influences are present in much of life here.

Simply set your eyes upon the varied architecture of Seville and you’ll realize that this is a place where many cultures and ethnicities have made their homes – some peacefully, and others tumultuously – but each has left its mark upon the Andalusían capital. The Moorish, Torre del Oro, which today is a naval museum, was originally constructed in the 13th century as a prison and watchtower by the Berber people that controlled the region at that time. Its location on the water makes it a perfect spot for observation. Though plans were made to demolish the ancient structure, its historical appeal won out, and it remains intact, where it was built almost 800 years ago.

As new peoples gained power over Seville, they simply adapted their predecessors’ monuments, structures and homes to suit their own needs. Move inland from the Guadalquivir river and head to the Plaza del Triunfo to see a magnificent example of Seville’s unique approach to construction. Seville Cathedral was originally built as a mosque in the late 13th century. After years of wear and changes in rule over Seville, the site was eventually added to, and transformed into a Christian cathedral. The massive structure was completed in the 1500s and still stands as the third largest church in the world. Curiously, it is also the site where Christopher Columbus is buried.

Seville, Spain, Travel Spain, Travel Seville

Before leaving the area, you may want to explore the beautiful Alcazar, an old Moorish palace. The Alcazar has a similar history to that of Plaza del Triunfo and even if not for the impressive palace itself, its beautiful gardens certainly warrant a visit.

Finally, arriving at Plaza de España, you’ll note a more modern approach to a traditional Renaissance style building. Plaza de España was constructed for a World’s Fair in 1928. Its tiled fountains, grand walls and numerous depictions of palms and orange trees make it an iconic Mediterranean plaza, and the spot has been used as a backdrop in a number of motion pictures.

As you depart Seville, cruise to the east through rolling green hills, along open plains and into small towns. Enjoy an authentic performance at a peña flamenca and be sure to sample sangria, Jamón ibérico and juice squeezed from freshly picked oranges as you travel.

Spain White Village, White Village Zuheros, Zuheros Spain

However, our exploration is not complete. Ride into the stone-white village of Zuheros, and stop to wander. Homes in this iconic pueblo blanco were erected directly upon its rocky hillside as far back as the 10th century. The chalky-white exteriors seem to glisten in the sun, but their foundations in the earth keep them cool and comfortable, even at midday.

The uneven terrain makes homes and buildings seem almost arbitrarily stacked around one another. And perched on the edge of the hillside, the ancient Zuheros Castle seems to be emerging directly out of the rock it was built on. Try the town’s famous olive oil and its cheeses before unwinding at the end of the day with a glass or two of Andalucía’s sweet wine, Montilla-Morilese.

Get to know the nuances of the culture, the food and wine and the stunning scenery of Andalucía by bike on our Spain: Under the Andalusian Sky​ vacation.

Castles, Temples and Sacred Monuments

How can you pick just one reason to visit a destination? It’s each of the distinct, cultural attributes of any new land that really makes traveling such a rich experience. Often, some of the most compelling features of our biking and walking vacations here at VBT are the tours of historic castles, temples and sacred monuments that we come upon in our journeys. These architectural highlights give us just one more reason to visit, adding unique insight into the countries we have come so far to see.

Spain—Mezquita de Cordoba

Mosque of Cordoba

Sometimes a change of tune is a good thing. Perhaps the perfect example of the adage is Cordoba’s Mezquita. Originally constructed in the 7th century, the denomination of the UNESCO World Heritage Site has been adapted several times over by its governing inhabitants. And, yet the combination of Christian and Moorish influence upon the cathedral’s design only adds to its aesthetic appeal. Take a guided tour of Cordoba de Mezquita on our Spain: Under the Andalusian Sky biking vacation.

Puglia—Cattedrale di Monopoli

Monopoli

Attractive from afar, and intoxicating from within, is the fortified town of Monopoli. The port village’s location has drawn many invaders historically, and much of the architecture has been built and rebuilt by its flux of inhabitants. Restored in the 17th century, the Cattedrale di Monopoli is one of the most noteworthy structures in the small town. At almost 200 feet high, the cathedral’s soaring tower is visible from quite a distance. Yet the baroque cathedral offers an even more stunning view at its base. Enjoy a close-up of the historic Catterale di Monopoli on our Puglia: Italy’s Undiscovered Coast bicycling vacation.

Portugal—São Jorge Castle

St. George's Castle

Europe’s western-most capital, Lisbon, boasts a collage of architectural styles. For a classic example of Lisbon’s hodgepodge of building styles, peer up at São Jorge Castle from the Baixa neighborhood of the coastal city. Atop Lisbon’s tallest hill, the Moorish castle rests like an ancient crown, capping off an elegant blend of Roman, Celtic, and even French architectural styles. Explore São Jorge Castle on an extension after our Walking Portugal’s Douro River Valley vacation.

Thailand—Wat Rong Khun

White Temple

Just outside of Chiang Rai, Thailand, travelers will find the unorthodox and absolutely striking Buddhist temple, Wat Rong Khun. In a land known for its vibrant natural colors, Wat Rong Khun truly stands out as much for its pristine white appearance, as its incredibly intricate façade. Though the White Temple is just over a decade old, it is certain to remain among one of the world’s sacred masterpieces for centuries to come. Marvel at Wat Rong Khun on our Exploring Northern Thailand biking vacation.

Vietnam—Hien Nhan Gate

Forbidden City

Park your bike and take some time to explore the Purple Forbidden City, the former headquarters of the Nguyen dynasty. Located in Hue, Vietnam, the Imperial City was once surrounded by a moat and a large stone wall, and outsiders could only peer upon its enclosure. Admittedly, it was quite a view. Admire it yourself, and as you enter into the Purple forbidden City, enjoy a moment examining the detail of the massive stone entryway, the Hien Nhan Gate. Visit the Hien Nhan Gate on our Journey through Vietnam biking vacation.

Peru—Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu Peru

What can be said about Machu Picchu to relay the wonder and awe of the “Lost City of the Incas”? We can merely echo our predecessors’ sentiments. Since its construction in the 14th and 15th century, the centerpiece of the Sacred Valley has simply amazed visitors from the Spanish conquistadors and Hiram Bingham to the ardent travelers that make their way along the Inca trail each year. Their conclusions? The journey astounds beyond words. Experience it for yourself and visit Machu Picchu on our Peru: Machu Picchu & The Sacred Valley walking tour.

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